How Blogs, Web 2.0 and Mobile
applications are heating up
Dis-intermediation - A Powerful Strategy? With Web .0 and proliferation of mobiles, media dynamics have been completely transformed. From a scenario where companies communicated with their markets, clients and users through several layers of intermediaries, with these new tools blogs, user communities, social networking, RSS etc they can now communicate directly and much more powerfully than ever before with these groups.
How can these tools help your business? How do you use them optimally? This thought paper, created specifically for the Connect P2P session at the NASSCOM India Leadership 2008, addresses some of these questions.
Look at how the world found out I was leaving Microsoft for a Silicon valley start up I told 15 people at a videoblogging conference not A listers either, just everyday videobloggers. I asked them not to tell anyone until Tuesday this was actually on a Saturday afternoon and I still hadnt told my boss. Well, of course, someone leaked that information. But it didnt pop up in the New York Times. It wasnt discussed on CNN. No, it was a blogger I had never even heard of, who posted the information first. Within hours it was on hundreds of other blogs. Within two days it was in the Wall Street Journal, in the New York Times, on the front page of the BBC website, in Business Week, Economist, in more than 140 newspapers around the world Waggener Edstrom, Microsofts PR agency, was keeping track and said that about 50 million media impressions occurred on my name in the first week. All due to 15 conversations. Robert Scoble, Scobleizer.com, an early blogger, now considered a guru of the medium who, when he was at Microsoft, wrote (and continues to write) an influential blog at scobleizer.com. This extract is from his introduction to the book The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott1.
The central threads of Web .0 - blogs, wikis, user generated content, bookmarking, social networking groups are not just providing the wiring for the social web they are beginning to make their presence felt within the business web too, with some good results. Taking a leaf from their social brethren, some companies are infusing new life into marketing plans, intranets and corporate websites with these Web 2.0 tools. The use of these tools is increasingly relevant for IT businesses given that they are so knowledge centric.
While traditional media relies on specialist Intermediaries PR firms/PR departments, customer relationship departments, corporate communication teams to spread the message (you may still need them to create the message), in the Web .0 world disintermediation is itself a powerful strategy. Why?
Employees feel good when they can tap into the thinking of their leaders through a CEO blog, and even possibly respond, by commenting on it
Consumers like the immediacy of instant contact with a person rather than a faceless, impersonal info@ ABCcorporation.com e-mail ID
On-line user communities are a power knowledge sharing tool, and can effectively complement and eventually replace newsletters
Mobile messaging is far more personalized simply because a mobile phone is probably the most personal tech gadget most of us carry around
A user generated website or a wiki is likely to be far better updated than a centralized intranet
Note: Mobility is listed as a Web 2.0 tool by design, not accident. With more phones running full feature web browsers and mobile networks faster than before, Web 2.0 applications and elements translate quickly and effectively into this new medium
Commit and Sustain .if you want the Results
The important thing about a Web .0 strategy is that it needs to be seen as an approach rather than as individual elements. While a press release is a self contained universe it tells you about the announcement, what the CEO has to say plus it often has a brief corporate profile a Web 2.0 element or webot is different. A webot which may be a blog post, a user group discussion thread, customer forum individually does not communicate much. To a user who is not part of the user community/forum, the context may seem less complete. To make an impact and deliver on the promise of the medium, companies need to set in place
1The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott, John Wiley & Sons, 2007
a strategy and reflect that in a sustained program to get results. So, one blog a quarter, a customer forum thats updated only every few months, just wont work. If your marketing communication is going to be sporadic, a traditional approach may work much better.
Webot Effort Pyramid
The pyramid is designed to chart out complexity levels for various kinds of webots. At the base are Blogs/RSS feeds which can be plugged into your marketing programe using ready-made, off-the-shelf tools or with minimal programming. At further stages, tools get progressively more complex, requiring use of third-party software or building your own.
Managing your Reputation
If you thought that blogs were not yet relevant in the Indian context, think again. While writing this paper, we did a blog search on around six to seven Indian firms top tier, middle rung, emerging and every one of them was tagged on a blog. While many mentions pertained to PR put out by these companies themselves, several were investors tracking these companies; a couple of hits came through employees posting notes on their companies. But the eye-opener was a blog devoted to discussing the suicide of an employee, a girl undergoing induction training at the training campus at one of Indias best known and respected software companies. Reading the blog the last post dated a week ago when a second suicide was attempted- was a revelation of the issues confronting IT companies as they scramble to work-ready new employees. What other employees, peers (geeks at other companies) think of this was also revelatory while plenty -ranted- about the company, its tough culture, there were others who believed that the girl should have been tougher. Issues that the companys HR ought to address since employees were obviously talking about this (in spite of a gag order issued at the training center). At the very least, if the facts were incorrect or wholly false, a formal rejoinder should have been posted so that readers could get the full picture.
Note: Webot is a Prayag coinage to refer to Web 2.0 tools and applications. Coined from words web and robot, the term denotes applications/tools that leverage automated web utilities spawned by the new generation web
Networking Tools :User Communities, Mobility
Blogs, RSS Feeds, Mobile Alerts
Key lesson #1 Keeping track of blogs is important to track your companys perception, reputation in the world.
Blogs are equally influential in the reverse: be it the CEO, CTO, or any executive in a leadership role, blogs are the means to broadcast your vision to the world. Unlike a press release which is linked to a discrete event, blogs are incremental: if you have a Eureka moment or an insight, it does not have to wait until there is a news anchor meaty enough to merit a press release.
As an external tool that plugs into a corporate marketing website, it is an excellent tool for thought leadership positioning. The Infosys telecom blog Livewire is a case in point- it has a nice blend of fresh takes on technology application, some analysis, some technology future gazing, all delivered in a personal style which is the essence of a blog.
Blogs are important for building thought leadership. And much easier than writing a whitepaper or a speech. So even if your tech head is a shy geek, you may want to urge him/her to start/contribute to an on-line technical forum. Commenting on blogs - especially ones that attract active participation from others in the business is a good way to sustain corporate visibility, and if your have a specific viewpoint, a way to claim mindshare of an idea/concept.
Even when it comes to distributing content like press releases, blogs are an alternate medium, easier than, and sometimes just as effective as, reaching out to specialized journalists at a mass media organization. Industry specific news can be effectively disseminated to on-line news feeds, sector-specific trackers run by trade outfits or even analysts/commentators or any other influencer who is speaking on-line. This is particularly important when the release is not deemed to be broadcast worthy by a mass media news organization.
Blogs can also look inward when a CEO writes a blog, it tells employees what the woman in the corner room is thinking. When you are the CEO of a high growth company spending more time with customers in far flung corners of the world than with your employees in a Navi Mumbai high-rise, you may want to discuss your vision for the company, or your ideas for creating an ideal enterprise, so that they stay on for the long run.
Communities and Forums
Moving up the ladder we come to networking tools. Extremely successful in drawing in users, it is one webot that is pretty ubiquitous in India. (Case in Point : among the largest nationalities on Orkut are Indians). The concept of networking groups can be tapped in two ways. The first and possibly the most rewarding is the creation of user communities for customers this, of course, is particularly relevant for product companies. A moderated community that can actually share product usage experience and data is a